Egypt Halts Gas Pipeline Feeding Israel, Jordan

7:01 PM, Saturday, February 5th, 2011
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Egypt Gas explosionMiddle East : Egypt halted natural-gas exports through a pipeline feeding Israel and Jordan today after a fire at the facility, Egypt’s Oil Ministry said.
The state-run Middle East News Agency said the stoppage was to limit damage caused by an explosion carried out by “subversive elements,” while the Oil Ministry said a gas leak led to a fire. Official Egyptian television reported that the incident in El Arish in the northern Sinai desert was an act of “terror” carried out by “foreign hands.”
There were no casualties and the fire is under control, the Oil Ministry said in a statement. Flames and smoke billowed into the sky in the area of the pipeline, footage from the Al Arabiya network showed.
The incident adds tension as hundreds of thousands of protesters have been demonstrating in Cairo and other cities for more than 10 days, calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. He has warned that an early departure for him would leave Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, in chaos.
Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure said in a statement that it doesn’t foresee any interruptions to the country’s electricity supply. About 40 percent of gas consumed in Israel is imported from Egypt.
One-Week Stoppage
The incident occurred on a part of the natural-gas network before it divides to Jordan or Israel, Marwan Bqaeen, head of the natural-gas unit at the Jordanian Energy Ministry, said in a telephone interview. The stoppage will halt Egyptian gas exports to Jordan for about a week, Petra news agency reported, citing Ghaleb al-Maabira, general director of Jordan’s state electricity company.
Egypt has halted gas supplies “as a safety precaution,” and Jordan has “resorted to back-up fuel,” Bqaeen said. “We heard from the Egyptians that the flames were under control and will soon be put out. They will then carry out an assessment.”
Egypt has natural-gas reserves of 77 trillion cubic feet and is the main producer of the hydrocarbon in the eastern Mediterranean, according to the U.S. Energy Department. The country exported 650 billion cubic feet of gas in 2009, 30 percent by either the Arab gas pipeline to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, or to Israel through the El-Arish-Ashkelon line, according to the U.S. department’s figures.
Supplies to Israel
The line to Israel started in 2008 and can supply up to 7 billion cubic meters a year, according to Israel’s Department of Natural Infrastructure. Israel imported 60 billion cubic feet of gas in 2009, U.S. Energy Department data show.
Egypt supplies Israel with gas under a 15-year contract and is expected to eventually deliver almost 1 trillion cubic feet. Israel imports about 85 percent of its energy.
Israeli National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said Feb. 1 that events in Egypt should heighten concern over the supply of natural gas to Israel, and the country should move quickly to develop its own gas sites.
Jordan, which imports almost all its energy needs, aims to increase imports of Egyptian gas for use in its power plants to 330 million cubic meters in 2011, from 240 million cubic meters last year, then Energy Minister Khalid Irani said in an interview on July 14.
Syria imported 679 million cubic meters from Egypt in 2010, making up about 8 percent of the country’s needs, according to government figures.


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